I did the Wells Ave C race today. It was a pretty small and fast race, and I was feeling good.
Trouble started with about three (maybe four?) laps to go. I was in the middle of the pack, and we had just rounded an uphill right-hand corner. The pack accordioned forwards (as it usually does in this spot). I found myself suddenly pinched on both sides.
Then the rider in front of me tapped his brakes and drifted left. We crossed wheels, and things got fuzzy.
I remember the sensation of riding a machine with pogo sticks (or maybe jackhammers) instead of wheels. I must have hit the riders to my left and right (I confirmed this by asking around after the race), but I don't remember it at all. The bike bucked like mad and shimmied back and forth for about three seconds. I was sure I was about to go down, but the bucking stopped suddenly and I found myself upright, still moving forwards.
I could tell my rear wheel was busted - it was shaking and rubbing the brake pads. I tried to wave the field around me, and I pulled over. It turned out the wheel was rubbing not just the pads but the frame, and badly enough that it wouldn't roll. So, I picked up the bike and did a half mile walk-of-shame back to the line.
I had a spoke wrench in my pack, and I took a shot at forcing the wheel back into good enough shape to get me home (about 7 miles away). Leo (ldesfor1@ithaca) was there, and he generously offered to give it a try as well. As it turned out, our efforts were wasted - at least five drive-side spoke holes were cracked, and there are only 12 drive-side spokes. Cue taps for the wheel. At that point I called home for an automotive rescue.
In retrospect, I can't decide how much of the fault lies with me. On one hand, the guy in front braked and drifted with a very tight pack around him. On the other hand, I was only a couple of inches behind him at the time - too close for a C race, and too close for a part of the course where the pack tends to compress unpredictably.
In any case, the only injuries were to my wheel. I'm going to give the experience some time to sink in, and hopefully I'll learn a thing or two from it. I realize that I was incredibly lucky not to have crashed, and that I certainly cannot count on luck to keep me safe in the future. I'll definitely be a bit more cautious next time.